Women Make the Difference in the Global Struggle for Human Rights

Deborah Richardson

Executive Vice-President
National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Last week in Atlanta, a powerful convening took place in which women who are shaping current global policy spent a day with other women who are concerned about a range of civil and human rights violations from pay inequity to violence against women. The Womenetics Global Women’s Initiative: The Ripple Effect illustrated that women can and are directly contributing to solutions in troubled societies, including our own. Their work provides a road map and access point for anyone handwringing on the sidelines.

If you believe that education and public policy– systemic broad-based change is the answer, take inspiration from Ambassador Swanee Hunt. Swanee has committed $7.5 million, over a 10-
year period, to fund Demand Abolition. Based on the fact, if there were no buyers, the selling of human beings for sex would not exist. Demand Abolition is focused on ending sex slavery by combating the demand for illegal commercial sex in the United States. In educating individuals on rampant modern-day slavery in the United States in the buying of girls, women and boys for sex, holding law enforcement accountable for arresting the men who are the purchasers of sex, urging businesses to institute a no-tolerance policy for employees who provide sex-related entertainment perks for clients, and asking the media to show the real harm to women and girls caused by traffickers and buyers, Demand Abolition is focused on catalyzing social change that reflects the dignity of all people.

When the everyday struggle for safety and basic human rights overwhelms you, draw courage from Marisela Morales Ibanez. As the Attorney General of Mexico, Ibanez faces death every day while prosecuting criminals involved in Mexico’s complex, multi-national drug trade. As the first woman to hold this prestigious post in Mexico, she is charged with mounting cases against organized crime and drug cartels that are using violent intimidation techniques such as kidnapping, mass murder, assassination of public figures and bribery to secure their positions. She built her reputation as a state prosecutor willing to root out corruption in her own department, and for prioritizing and prosecuting cold cases in which the victims were poor women in the Mexican countryside.

If you think that a small gesture makes a big difference, and transforming individual women’s lives is the most sustainable way to heal the effects of human rights violations, meet Andree Simon. She is the President & COO of Women for Women International. Her organization operates under the simple premise that women in a position to give can sponsor a woman recovering from violence, war, degradation, trafficking, and hosts of other traumas, and over the course of a year her life can be changed. Her organization has charted a path for human rights education, income security, healthcare and personal safety for individual women in eight of the world’s most desperate regions.

These woman stand in the face of obstacles and affirm that social change begins with women. Women bear the brunt of human rights abuses in the world, and as mothers, that suffering impedes the next generation. For every one of the women highlighted above, there are millions of others who are at work in their communities, advancing economic justice, insuring access to education, providing healthcare, fighting for gender equity and ending exploitation and violence in the home and society. As citizens of a global community, we each have a responsibility to step in and join with them. How will you use your power and resources to create a just and equitable world?

Contributed by Deborah Richardson